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Politics & Policy
National database and registration authority

For the record
Syed Sajid Ali
Polotics & Polocy
National Database and Registration Authority
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The principal goal of NADRA, is to develop a sophisticated database management system at the national level

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
Mar 27 - Apr 02, 2000

The formation of the National Data Base and Registration Authority (NADRA) is one of most important steps for realisation of the national goals in the modern age of electronically compiled data and information technology. It is encouraging that the present government, during the first five months of its rule, realised this long felt demand and set up an organisation for compiling an efficient data base for economic planning and development, national security and political governance of the country.

The principal goal of NADRA, as defined by Maj. Gen. Zahid Ihsan, Director General of the organisation, is to develop a sophisticated database management system at the national level. NADRA will be a centralized data repository at national level where data in the form of particulars of citizens of Pakistan will be maintained and kept continuously updated. Sixty-seven million National Database Forms containing detailed particulars of citizens above 18 years of age have been collected and stored with the help of 100,000 Jawans of Pakistan Army. These National Data Forms contain a diverse variety of data encompassing maximum social and fiscal indicators of our citizen to provide objective inputs for decision making at all tiers of administrative hierarchy. This data will be of great help in planning and evolving future policies in the spheres of industry, agriculture, transportation, health and magnitude of other public welfare and social activities. The citizen database and national data warehouse would be duly for all future interfacings. This data will be instrumental in actualizing our dream of prosperity especially in the present times of our difficulty. I earnestly hope that NADRA's database will be of great help in combating corruption, terrorism, controlling illegal immigration, ensuring effective law enforcement and in monitoring of planning and development functions both at mirco and macro levels.

This documentation, by using information technology to its optimum best, will provide an excellent input for objective decision making for collective and cohesive good of our citizens.

The various projects being undertaken by NADRA would usher in a new era of its development and application in Pakistan, opening new vistas of progress and windows of opportunity.

Inaugurating NADRA, the Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharaf said in addition to reposing my entire trust and confidence in NADRA and its selected partners, I compliment them for formulating an effective team through a very transparent manner in consonance with the prevalent international standards".

Maj Gen Zahid Ihsan said supported by an elaborate network for easy flow of data down to the District level in phase I and to Tehsil level in second phase implementation of the conceptual model for devolution of powers would be much facilitated.

The need for integration in the field of Information Technology (IT) has long been felt as a necessity for our country. During the last 20 years, Pakistan has seen many revolutionary changes and many manual systems were automated in consonance with the latest technology, he added.

The National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) which has now been set up through an ordinance and has begun functioning will be facilitating the registration of all persons and maintaining computerized records. The functions assigned to the Authority are multifarious and of far-reaching implications for every sector of national life. Thus it will be issuing computerized identity cards to all citizens, Pakistani origin cards, overseas identity acrds, alien registration cards as well as maintaining records of the people registered for the issuance of these cards. The enormity of this task should not be underestimated. Given the experience of the National Database organization, which was established in May 1998 to collate and Organize the census data and has now been merged with the newly-created NADRA, one can expect the Authority to handle its challenging responsibilities with skill and proficiency.

Some scepticism, however is not out of place in respect of the timeframe which has been set and the data collecting process which has not been defined. The federal interior minister has said that all the existing national identity cards (NICs), about 64 million in number—will be replaced by December 2001. He has estimated that one million cards will be issued every week. This seems to be an ambitious target, especially if the promise of delivering the cards at the doorstep of the holders for Rs. 15 is actually kept. Apart from this, the NADRA will also have to deal with the job of issuing NICs to new applicants as well as those three million or so youth who reach the age of eighteen every year. This assignment is only in relation to the national identity card section. It will additionally have to cope with the task of Pakistan origin cards and overseas Pakistani cards. In view of the experience we have had every time new cards are issued be the NTR cards, motor vehicle registration number plates etc the authorities have invariably failed to meet deadlines and have been behind time by years. The NADRA will have to establish its efficiency and promptness to prove that it is different from the other agencies which have given the administration such a bad name with their inefficiency and slothfulness. The more worrisome aspect of the matter is the authenticity and veracity of the data fed into the computers. True, by establishing networking systems all over the country the NADRA will make its database easily accessible to the various government agencies which need it for ready reference or for purposes of verification. But that does not mean that the data will necessarily be accurate and not falsified. The home minister pointed out that aliens have managed to obtain fake ID cards and passports by paying a few thousand rupees. It is not clear how such cases will be sifted out and eliminated and their future recurrence prevented.